Dating over 60 can be disconcerting, especially if you’re heading into it after a long absence. I remember all too well my own trepidation when I took the plunge into online dating several years ago.
Of course, one of the first things I did was some research about senior dating to see what my chances were of finding love at 60. I found plenty of articles claiming to answer questions such as, “What do single women over 60 really want?” or “What do women look for in a man?”
These Dating Questions Might Be Harmful to Your Health
But these tempting questions are a trap. The danger starts the minute I begin molding myself to another’s expectations and wants. At that point, my true self starts to die.
As a “recovering” people-pleaser, it’s a recipe for emotional disaster. And it’s definitely a bad way to start a mature relationship.
Fortunately, I had been seeing a therapist for about a year prior to my first online dating adventure. Prior to those counseling sessions, I had pig-headedly decided that dating and relationships simply weren’t for me.
It was my destiny to be a confirmed bachelor into my sixties and beyond. I had a lousy relationship track record and I figured there was an emotional defect in me that made healthy relationships impossible. Forget about finding true love or anything close to it.
Overcoming Mature Relationship Problems
But I discovered that was simply not true. My relationship difficulties stemmed from a few dysfunctional coping skills such as people-pleasing.
Writing in Psychology Today, Amy Morin talks about how hard it is “to look out for yourself when you have no boundaries.” She goes on to list five signs you’re trying too hard to please everyone. You:
- Can’t say no
- Struggle to make decisions
- Don’t ask for help
- Aren’t living according to your values
- Don’t set healthy boundaries
Heck, to me these weren’t warning signs, they were a way of life. I felt like I was hard-wired this way.
Years of work and introspection in a recovery program had helped me overcome these to some extent. I learned to reach out for help, to say no, to make decisions and follow my values. Yet I hung on to a tendency to change myself to suit others in a relationship whether it was good for me or not. Boundaries were a struggle.
Two Things That Led To My Dating Over 60 Success
Happily, all my work paid off. With my therapists help, I accomplished two things that made it possible to start dating in a way that was good for me.
First, I discovered the reason why I had these people-pleasing traits. I talk about that in more detail in this related article about finding my ideal partner. In short, I attracted, and was attracted to, the wrong kinds of people. I was using coping and survival skills I learned as a child, not the emotional skills of an adult.
Secondly, I learned to identify and be clear about what it was that I wanted and needed. I had skimped on my needs far too long. Now I was learning to be comfortable in my own skin. Finally, I had the real “me” to bring to the world, take it or leave it.
In Why You Should Never Try to Change Your Behavior , author Tim Carey, Ph. D. says, somewhat counter-intuitively,
“When things need changing, it’s the wants that need attention not the behavior. Getting to know all that you want could be the most important learning you ever make.”
That was the key for me to unlock the secret to finding my true love and ideal partner, Daisy. I had to focus on myself first. Without knowing what I truly wanted, I would have presented an incomplete self to the world, and Daisy might never have been attracted to me.
The Proper Perspective to Understanding What Women Look for in a Man
So let’s get back to all those dating advice articles about women (and men.) Is it a bad thing to read about what mature women want in a man? No, of course not.
Understanding and clarity are worthy goals. It’s good to understand what women look for in a man, with two caveats:
1) Don’t generalize. Every woman doesn’t want the same set of qualities in a man. Personalities matter. One woman may be attracted to gregarious, type A personalities while another might love the quiet introvert.
Sure, there are character traits like kindness and generosity that are universally desirable. The important thing to do is get a clear picture of your ideal partner before you start your search. If you don’t know what you want in a woman, how will you know when you find her? You’ll fall for whoever happens to be the most exciting to you at the moment.
2) Don’t change your personality or ignore your own wants and needs to meet someone else’s expectations or demands. People-pleasing is a positive attribute as long as you can take care of yourself as you set healthy boundaries.
Relationship expert Susan Winter says, “The way to gain a man worth loving is to “like yourself” first. This goes for us men, too. Don’t forget to like yourself first. If you don’t like who you are, then get to work on fixing yourself so you do. It’s only then that the woman who’s looking for you will be able to find you.